D. Kevin McNeir

D. Kevin McNeir

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9/11: Retracing my steps and emotions, years later

Paralyzed By Fear

September 11, 2001 started like any typical day for me. I was a beat reporter working for a weekly newspaper in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and had just begun finishing my stories for the front page. Since it was a Tuesday, and we went to press that day, it was hectic. The newsroom was buzzing as my fellow reporters and the editor made final preparations for the Wednesday edition. One of my colleagues said they had heard rumors of several passenger jets being hijacked in New York and so we did what any good reporter would do — we began to ask questions. With the radio and television both on, and with fingers flying furiously along our keyboards, we soon realized that this day would not end in typical fashion. It would be a day that we would remember for the rest of our lives. It would change the way we viewed our world. A communication came across the fax machine from Michael Powell, then-director of the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] warning us to “tread softly.” I remember wondering if there had been some sudden repeal of the First Amendment — you know, freedom of speech and the press? Looking to our publisher for direction, we continued to move very slowly, to listen, to watch and to pray. Meanwhile, things in Chicago, just a few miles away from our office, had digressed into utter bedlam as panic had overtaken the City. People were rushing out the hundreds of skyscrapers and running towards the trains. At that point we didn’t know if the U.S. was under attack or not, nor did we know if other cities like ours might be in danger.